Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
Still from the film The Fisher King, 1991
And he came unto his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I; who art thou, my son? And Jacob said unto his father, I am Esau thy first born; I have done according as thou badest me: arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me. And Isaac said unto his son, How is it that thou hast found it so quickly, my son? And he said, Because the Lord thy God brought it to me.
— Genesis 27:18-20
Esau, the first born, the hunter, strong, wild and independent is usurped by his younger twin, the weakling, the coward, the mummy's boy Jacob, who deceives his father Isaac and blasphemes against God with an outright lie in His name. And this is the man God chooses to be the Abraham's heir and the father of the twelve tribes of Israel.
But perhaps we shouldn't be surprised; after all Issac himself essentially usurped his older brother Ishmael's place in his father's favour, again through the guile of his mother. Later, Jacob's own son Joseph, the eleventh born rather than the first, is the favoured one, and later still this pattern becomes apparent when Jacob consciously chooses to bless Joseph's second son, Ephraim over the first-born, Manasseh. The patriarchal, hierarchical system of the time while not broken is certainly cracked by God's chosen people.
And it's a peculiar feature of the five books of Moses (the Torah or Pentateuch) that there are no typical literary heroes, just a succession of flawed and broken characters expected to carry God's message. Abraham, a man of good heart was often shown to be one of little faith, Isaac is pliant and passive, and possibly a simpleton,1 Jacob a deceiver, Joseph an intolerable show-off, his brothers (the future leaders of ten of the twelve tribes of Israel) an envious, blood-thirsty mob, and Moses himself, destined to be the Voice of God, a runaway with a stutter. It's hardly the "A" Team.
And this in great part is why I am so attracted to the Bible, both as a literary work and a series of teaching stories. I find myself there, in all my own brokenness and imperfection, I find my truth, often difficult to confess, and I find redemption. More than that though, I find all humanity in the pages of these books, and am reminded of the great frailty of the human ego such that causes men so often, and repeatedly to act in fear, anger, lust and hatred. If Jacob can be redeemed, if his first ten sons can be forgiven and lifted up, then why not the rest of us? If every human soul is worth saving then who am I to judge any other? My only responsibility is to love.
1 Seeing Isaacs weaknesses and strengths, The Jewish News of Northern California